The battle for dominance of African air space is intensifying with Alliance Air striving to gain control of soon to be privatised Uganda Airlines.

Alliance's executive director John Murray says it is 'vital' for Kampala-based Alliance to gain control of Uganda Airlines to prevent it from falling prey to KLM's aggressive expansion policy in Africa. 'The Asian meltdown has diverted European focus to Africa with South Africa as the end destination. Africa is growing with varied destinations with good yields and growth potential,' says Murray.

Murray believes KLM would shut Uganda Airlines down if it were to gain control of the carrier, in a bid to strengthen Kenya Airlines in which it owns a 26 per cent stake.

Murray says that since it started operations in 1995, Alliance has lost US$18 million, but that it now expects to break even by March next year. 'We have achieved our critical mass, increased market share, and are now expanding our operations and looking to acquire more aircraft.'

Alliance announced in January that it would launch a regional airline, Alliance Express, after taking over the operations of Air Rwanda which was about to be liquidated.

Alliance operates a Boeing 747SP into Johannesburg, Dar es Salaam and London from Entebbe with load factors of some 70 per cent. Future planned destinations include Dubai and Brussels while frequencies to Kilimanjaro are set to be increased. And fleet changes are due. 'We expect to replace our Boeing 747 with twin engined aircraft, probably 767s or Airbus A31Os. We need more frequencies, not more seats, into our destinations,' said Murray.

Roger Makings

Source: Airline Business